Former Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan Karadzic Sentenced to Life

Former Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan Karadzic Sentenced to Life

Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader accused of planning the Srebrenica massacre of 1995, has been sentenced to life in prison by a UN court. Karadzic, 73, was sentenced to 40 years in prison back in 2016 and has unsuccessfully appealed his sentence with the UN tribunal in The Hague.

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United Nations appeals judges have upheld the convictions of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic from 2016 and increased his sentence from 40 years to life in prison. The ruling by presiding judge Vagn Prüsse Joensen of Denmark marks the end of one of the highest profile trials in Hague that lasted almost 11 years.

Karadzic, 73, has been sentenced for his role in mass killings of civilians in the civil war that tore Bosnia apart in 1995. Joensen read the verdict for Karadzic, saying that he had failed to rebut the original 2016 ruling that as commander-in-chief of Bosnian Serb forces, he was responsible for investigating and punishing perpetrators of war crimes, The Guardian reported.

Joensen also said that Karadzic had “failed to demonstrate error” in the original findings that his forces made no distinction between military targets and civilians when attacking Sarajevo. The court’s main evidence for convicting Karadzic of genocide for the 1995 massacre of Srebrenica was an order Karadzic signed that called for conditions for the city’s people to be made “unbearable with no hope of further survival”. Court correspondents said that Karadzic showed no reaction as the verdict was being read.

The final UN ruling, which cannot be challenged on appeal, has already made a huge resonance in the countries of former Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia. The ethnic communities within the country still remain divided, with many Bosnian Serbs seeing Karadzic as a war hero. The distrust many Bosnian Serbs have towards the UN stems from the lack of convictions made among Muslim and Croatian forces that have been made in The Hague.

Maja Kocijanovic, a foreign affairs spokesperson for the EU, urged governments in the Balkans to accept the final verdict in the trial.

“The EU expects all leaders in the region to support the decisions of the international tribunals and to refrain from any statements or actions casting doubt on the independence or the impartiality of the adjudication process. Denial or revisionism contradict the most fundamental European values,” Kocijancic said in a press release.

Former Bosnian Serb leader and co-founder of the Serb Democratic Party, Momcilo Krajisnik, said that Karadzic “never advocated crimes, never supported them, and never carried them out”. Krajisnik was also convicted of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and was released from prison after having served two-thirds of his 20-year sentence.

“They say that justice exists and is achievable, but everything indicates, when it comes to the Hague Tribunal, at least in our short life, it means nothing,” Krajisnik told Russian media outlet Sputnik.

Following his indictment by the ICTY in 1995, Karadzic went missing and went into hiding, managing to evade arrest for over a decade by masquerading as an expert in alternative medicine.

(Banner image: Wikimedia Commons)

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